In honor of Memorial Day I’m taking a moment to tell a story about my uncle Robert (Bob) Teran, my mother’s oldest brother.
Bob Teran enlisted in the Army at age 20. He completed radio mechanic school and was invited to take pilot tests. He qualified for both bombardier and pilot. He went to Florida for flight training and was assigned as a B-17 copilot, sent to England, and began missions over Germany July 9, 1944. Pilots could go home after 35 missions. Many of Uncle Bob’s raids were to bomb petroleum and oil targets. He flew 20 missions as co-pilot with the 527th Squadron from July 9 to August 24, 1944. Military records show mission numbers 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 168, 170, 171, 174, 175, 176, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 185, 186, 190, and 192. Uncle Bob may have flown additional missions, but these are the ones on record.
On the August 24, 1944 mission (192) to bomb the synthetic oil plants at Merseberg, Germany Lt Teran was flying in aircraft 44-6004, At 27,000 feet the “Ronnie Boy” was hit in the wing. He ordered the enlisted men to parachute out, and then he and his pilot followed. Six chutes were observed. Crew was as follows:
Bruns, Donald E, 1st Lieutenant, Pilot, Prisoner Of War
Teran, Robert D, 2nd Lieutenant, Co-Pilot, Prisoner Of War
Siddall, Evan (NMI), 2nd Lieutenant, Navigator, Prisoner Of War
Wolfe, Russell H, 2nd Lieutenant, Bombardier, Prisoner Of War
Dupee, Harry C, Tech Sergeant, Radio Operator/Gunner, Killed In Action
Jewell, Thomas (NMI), Tech Sergeant, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Prisoner Of War
Gammons, Marvin E, Staff Sergeant, Ball Turret Gunner, Killed In Action
Grow, Raymond L, Staff Sergeant, Waist Gunner, Killed In Action
Prigmore, Donald H, Staff Sergeant, Tail Gunner, Prisoner Of War
Uncle Bob always thought all his men made it out, but at a recent POW convention he learned three had died in the explosion and were buried in the Netherlands.
He landed in a field, was caught by German soldiers, and taken to Stalag 7A in Moosburg, Bavaria, a POW camp for officers. During interrogation he was kicked in the back by a German soldier, permanently injuring his coccyx. Uncle Bob and other POWs then had to walk 60 km to French boxcars that would transport them to Stalag VII A. Many were suffering from frostbite, hypothermia, dysentery, and diarrhea. Uncle Bob had kidney problems from the water-based food. The conditions worsened when they were loaded on the rail cars. There was no way to dispose of human waste, and no food or water.
He wasn’t allowed to receive or send mail because he did not cooperate with the interrogation. (Soldiers who gave the Germans personal information about themselves were permitted to receive mail, which in turn gave Germans vital intelligence.) Their food was black moldy bread made partly from sawdust, which caused many tragic illnesses. They didn’t know when they might be rescued. “Out of the gate in ’48” they’d say to each other in passing.
Patton’s Army liberated the POW camp on April 29, 1945. Uncle Bob was sent to rehabilitation camp “Lucky Strike” in France, and then home after the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945.
It is convenient for us to let these types of stories slip from our immediate memories as we bustle around in our busy lives. It would behoove us, however, to remember these events with great respect, for the grit in these stories represent the freedoms we currently enjoy.
Huge thanks to Aunt Marva for providing both pictures of Uncle Bob and Ronnie Boy.
Name: Robert Douglas Teran
State of Birth: NM
Home State: UT
War or Conflict: World War, 1939-1945
- Entrance into Service: Enlisted
- Branch of Service: Army Air Forces/Corps
- Unit of Service: 527th Bomb Squadron, 379th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
- Location of Service: Scott Field, Illinois; Maxwell Field, Alabama; Arcadia, Florida; Columbus Field, Mississippi; England; Stalag Luft III, Poland; Stalag Luft VIIA, Germany
- Highest Rank: Major
- Prisoner of War: Yes